Humor me by drifting down a little stream-of-consciousness
here. Tonight I realized I had
missed my assigned day to post to this blog. I looked at the assigned date, and laughed. It was a day I had allowed myself to
somehow believe I could simultaneously be at the AZK12 Ken Robinson book club
(for the book Out of Our Minds: Learning
to be Creative) and be at parent teacher conferences at school. Had I somehow managed to get all three
of my obligations onto my calendar, maybe I would have planned better. But Sunday was spent on some freelance
work that helps to supplement my teaching salary. Saturday was chores.
Last week was a blur of grading frenzy after travel to a family wedding
and in anticipation of parent conferences. 163 students is more than I’ve ever had in 17 years, and
coming to terms with the obvious and subtle ways that shapes my teaching life
is the subject of a whole other blog entry, but…
I am also highly distractable by nature (and maybe by
caffeine). Last year in the high
school creative writing class I teach, I had several intensely creative
students who inspired me to re-embrace reading and writing in my own personal
life. I rediscovered how much fun
it was to just read and write… for fun, and to think and communicate. Much of it I revised, sometimes
intensively, and shared. At any
rate, I write almost daily now, for fun, and have a personal blog, which I was
updating with wedding photos just about the time I realized I had better check
my schedule here.
Being the distracted momteacher I am, during my freelancing
work writing content for AP Language and Composition textbooks on Sunday, I began the following exchange on Facebook:
I want to be Annie Dillard.
"It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind.
Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The
secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you
yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff."
"I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until
at that moment I was lifted and struck."
Brilliant English Teacher Friend: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is my favorite book ever. :)
September 16 at 8:37pm via mobile · Like
Amethyst Hinton Sainz I
knew i liked you for some reason... :) P.S. tomorrow night is P/T conferences!
Didn't realize the book club conflict until just now! Wah.
Monday at 6:10am · Like
Amethyst Hinton Sainz I
keep coming back to Annie Dillard as a model for all I admire in good writing.
She is the real ####. When I read her again after a long absence it's like
coming home. Wish I could have her spiritual clarity!
Monday at 6:11am · Like
Brilliant English Teacher Friend: I sometimes dream of my own
Tinker Creek or Waldon Pond. What must it be like to have nothing else to do
but observe the world and write? *sigh*
I've been working -- quite literally -- all weekend. (Ok, I took
time for dinner and a few episodes of "Arrested Development" with
Peter last night.) Didn't even get time to crack open the Robinson book. I'm
booked through this evening, too. I can't even keep up with a dang book club.
When am I supposed to write?? :(
Monday at 6:14am · Like
Amethyst Hinton Sainz I
can't keep up, either. What was I thinking joining a book club? What you do is
you write with your students.
I somehow did manage to write with my students much of the
time last year. Somehow we all
created a space for it, and it was a joy.
However, right now I’m writing for maybe 10 out of their total 45
writing minutes per week. I need the time to finish prepping, getting work back to them… it’s tricky. And the engagement strategy of open
writer’s notebook time for 15 minutes a day doesn’t fit into the Common Core so
well on its own merits. But I feel
justified because creative writing is an elective, and the kids need that
In our first, earlier, book group meeting about the
creativity book, the conversation veered dangerously close to a stereotypical
teacher lounge whine, and I know we all felt it. It’s hard to vent our many frustrations without going there… it is a challenge to be continually solutions-oriented.
But in order to find solutions, problems must be thoughtfully
identified. Most of us there felt
that in the schools where we worked, innovation was actually discouraged either
by curriculum maps and pacing calendars, evaluation systems (especially the new
emphasis on student achievement data), and largely by lack of time to jump off
of the multitasking treadmill of our day and to think, dream, wander… and to be
wrong. In his well-known TED talk,
Ken Robinson says “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never discover
anything original.” I would add “If
you’re swamped with attendance, e-mails, planning, grading, testing, and
meeting individual student needs….”
I don’t have a lovely metaphor to pull this one together. All I know is that before I started
writing this, I set out on Google to see if I could find the source of that
oft-used-in-powerpoints graph that shows the yearly cycle of teacher
morale. That yearly cycle hits a
low, if I remember correctly, around October 18, excatly a month off from* the day which I now realize I
was supposed to be at a professional book group on creativity, be meeting with
parents, and posting a blog entry about how policy meets practice. This after a weekend of nine hours
writing multiple choice questions for extra pay, and earning much more per hour
producing educational materials than I earn after 17 years of teaching those
I did not find the research I sought, but I found a slew of
articles from last spring saying that teacher morale was at an all time
low. Perhaps I can wrangle this wayward reflection back to the idea that one contributing factor to low teacher morale is that so many of us are frustrated on a creative level. We need time to sharpen the saw, read a
book, write poetry, observe our own Waldens, and figure out what we really
think. Many of us are killing
ourselves reaching for that. And the fact that I ignored my own children’s
bickering and bedtime resistance to write this only adds the last touch of
evidence to my meandering argument tonight.
*We started school earlier, so I'm chalking my early visit to low-morale land up to that.